Rachel Ginsberg, Director of the Interaction Lab at Cooper Hewitt

Rachel Eve Ginsberg is a creative strategist and experience designer exploring the relationship between information systems, interaction design, and sense-making as the founding director of the Interaction Lab at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Rachel’s artistic work experiments with interactive experiences that drive self-discovery and personal transformation.

Did you know…

  • Rachel was born in New York, grown in the Philadelphia suburbs and in New York for the past 11 years, with some years in California (San Diego and Santa Cruz), Illinois (Chicago), and Italy (Milan) in between.
  • They completed their Bachelor’s degree in Literature from University of California, Santa Cruz, with an additional emphasis on photography, and a Master’s in Management of Fashion, Experience, and Design (MAFED) from SDA Bocconi in Milan.
  • In addition to their professional work, they are a multi-disciplinary artist. Much of their work is auto-documentary, and they design interactive installations alone and with collaborators. Their work has been programmed at the New York Film Festival, Sundance’s New Frontier, International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), and in a Bricolage theater production called Project Amelia.
  • A core part of their design practice is envisioning futures as a tool for exploration of the present. They’ve given talks about this and other interactive design work all over the world, including a TEDx talk in Berlin in 2018.

What is the Interaction Lab?

The Interaction Lab is a research and development program that focuses broadly on the visitor experience. To do that, we conduct experiments and build prototypes of physical, digital, and human interactions with a growing community of designers and organizations.Our approach to the design of human interactions is collaborative and interdisciplinary, combining game design, experience design, information design, and place-making principles.

In practice, those projects range widely and always connect back to a visitor experience goal. To bring more storytelling capability into the museum, we’re working on designing software systems that will connect different bodies of content together. To imagine new ways of using digital collections, we commissioned seven teams of designers to prototype online experiences with Smithsonian Open Access. As we experiment with how best to invite and inspire visitors to learn with us, we convened a group of stellar museum professionals to explore tools and approaches for transforming museum experience to be more inclusive and participatory.

How do you imagine the future of museums?

I imagine futures for museums that allow for them to be as participatory (or not) as people want. I imagine museums as vibrant spaces of thought and action. I imagine museums as conveners of important conversations that draw on explorations of the histories we hold to help us make sense of the present and to imagine collective futures. I imagine museums as spaces of multiplicity and expansive narratives, where we create space for many things to be true at the same time and for those truths not to be in conflict. I imagine museums as entities that are not neutral.

Whose closet would you raid?

Iris and Carl Apfel, without question. If you don’t know who they are, you should definitely check them out.

What kind of storyteller are you?

I’m a storyteller from all sides, the kind of person who wants to take things apart, look at all the pieces and then put them back together in many ways until I understand the whole thing. I do tend to run long when I’m speaking, but my brain works in loops—it will always come back around, even if it takes a little time.

Halal cart or ice cream truck?

It’s gonna be the ice cream for me, with deep loyalties to Mr. Softee. The way to my summer heart is a twist cone with rainbow sprinkles, and the occasional fruity dip.

Poster, Herman Miller Summer Picnic, 1983, 1983; Client: Herman Miller Furniture Company (United States); screenprint with lacquer finish on wove paper; 100.3 x 63.6 cm (39 1/2 x 25 1/16 in.); Gift of Sara and Marc Benda; 2010-21-86

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